The atmosphere’s getting a little thin

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Like a breath of fresh air, Rhymesayers Entertainment continues to resuscitate hip hop into new directions. On May 1, the Catalyst Club, vibrantly tucked in the middle of downtown Santa Cruz, welcomed three acts from Minnesota with raised fists singing to their lyrics.

After driving over an hour, taking a few wrong turns, and finding parking right in front of the Catalyst, it seemed as though the revolutionary ambiance from the day was left behind. With every mile driven, the marches, rallies, and protest for immigrants’ rights that filled the streets across the nation earlier that day felt further away.

That is until Los Nativos, the opening act, took the stage. Equipped with a DJ, their brown pride and certifying lyrics, the Mexican duo Felipe Cuauhtli and Chilam Balam, discerningly spit their thoughts on life, politics, and the many injustices people continue to face day to day without missing a beat.

The crowd returned only half of the energy the two were putting out, due to the dazed sound guy that was on the side of the stage, oblivious to the frustrated cues of the DJ who was trying to get the frequencies right. It took a careful ear to make out some of their lyrics, but nonetheless, listening closely presented fresh thoughts on revolutionary topics.

Two slices of Hawaiian pizza later was Brother Ali. With a skillfully charismatic swagger and an irresistible two-step, he comfortably took the stage and ripped it smoother than any other in the game. Physically unconventional to the average emcee, being white, in addition to albino, Brother Ali’s style nonetheless is an instant classic.

“Rainwater,” off the Champion Ep album, optimistically speaks about different instances involving family. “Granddad was in the twilight of his life/When he closed his eyes tight and opened his wrists wide/ What makes a tenth round fighter with the winning score decide he’d need to throw a towel before the whistle blow/Maybe I’ll never know/But I inherited his poetic soul so the symbolism’s yet to show/Was life so obscene that death’s more serene/Or was an old author tryin’ to write his own closing scene.”

In between one of his songs, he amicably explained that he’s just trying to get the party going and keep it there. Him asking everyone to put their hands in the air and learn his lyrics, for the minority that already didn’t, wasn’t to entertain himself or make the audience work for already well-spent twenty dollars, but it was sincerely to ensure that everyone was dancing and having a good time with him.

After a hearty serving of Brother Ali and four Heineken’s later, Atmosphere, who consists of Slug the emcee and Ant the DJ, took the stage. Not to avoid writing about the headliner, but truly the best way to describe Atmosphere in concert is to jump on the next opportunity to see him for yourself, and tickets sell like they’re buy one get one free.

Slug took the stage like it was his second home, which is to no surprise, considering he’s put out eight quality albums since 1997. His delivery is clear, concise, and undoubtedly fresh and clever. With a storytelling style unlike no other, Slug makes it impossible not to empathize with his songs. To put pieces of his lyrics in this article will not do justice to the skills Atmosphere has as a writer, whose style, complexity, and point of view are endless and always thought provokingly entertaining.

He did the last half of his set with a six-piece band, where he flipped the tempo of a couple of his songs, which was undoubtedly a divine treat to have witnessed. Unfortunately, the deafening encore did not merit much more than what was already delivered. They only did one song when he and the band took the stage again, where he explained was because the band only knew how to play so many of his songs. An impromptu encore was well deserved, though it was not given, but the crowd left satisfied.